The Cubs completed their third six-game winning streak within a month's time with this win.
I mean... seriously, if you don't realize how rare that is, consider that they finished this win on a 21-4 run. That's really, really hard to do. See below for just how hard.
The win put the Cubs at a season-high 22 games over .500 at 73-51. They trailed the Cardinals by 6½ games, the Pirates by two games, and were 7½ games ahead of the Giants for the second wild card spot.
You are witnessing something that has not been done by a Cubs team in 80 years.
The Cubs' Tuesday night win, their sixth in a row, 8-5 over the Giants, was also their 21st in their last 25 games. That hasn't been done by any Cubs team since 1935. And that team had to win 21 straight (still the major-league record for consecutive wins) to accomplish 21 wins in 25 games. The 1935 Cubs are the last Cubs team to win 100 games.
100 wins? Am I crazy for thinking this team could go 27-9 the rest of the year and do it?
Well, probably. But the way this club is playing... it no longer seems impossible that they might catch the Pirates for the top wild-card spot, or even make a run at the Cardinals for the division title. More on that later.
Jake Arrieta and Matt Cain matched zeroes for the first two innings, then the Cubs began a rally in the third. Starlin Castro led off with a single and advanced to third on a passed ball and a wild pitch. One out later, Tommy La Stella walked and then Dexter Fowler hit a sharp ground ball to third, a contact play on which Castro took off for the plate. Matt Duffy threw him out and it looked like the Cubs' rally might be over.
Kyle Schwarber hit a baseball really, really hard and it landed in what they call the "Arcade" seats in right field at AT&T Park for a three-run homer, his 12th.
That's 12 home runs in 142 at-bats. Miguel Sano of the Twins also has 12 in about that many at-bats (166). Every other major-league rookie who has more than 12 homers (except the magnificent Carlos Correa), also has at least 200 more at-bats than either Sano or Schwarber. Also:
Schwarber is having a special rookie year, though it would be nice if he could hit things other than home runs, too. Since August 18 he has four home runs in eight games, but no other hits, going 4-for-30. That's a weird "slump," as with six walks his slash line is .133/.278/.533 -- an OPS of .811 without getting a hit other than a home run.
Leading 3-0, Arrieta continued to mow down Giants hitters. Miguel Montero made it 5-0 with his 14th home run in the fourth inning and by the time Castro hit his sixth homer of the year (and first since June 12!) in the sixth, followed by an unearned run, it was 8-0.
Here's where the complaint department door gets opened, just a wee bit. Arrieta had allowed a run in the sixth, unearned due to his own throwing error, but might have been able to throw the entire seventh inning, if not for a 12-pitch battle he had with Brandon Crawford ending that sixth inning. Crawford fouled off six straight 2-2 pitches before running the count full; Arrieta finally struck him out. But that ran what had been a reasonable pitch count up to 99, and when former Cub (and former just about every other team, too) Marlon Byrd singled to lead off the seventh, that was it for Jake.
Justin Grimm got out of the seventh with no runs scoring, and Tommy Hunter was summoned to start the eighth with an 8-1 lead.
Hunter did not have a good inning. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases, and even though there were two out, Joe Maddon brought in Clayton Richard to face Gregor Blanco, who singled in a run. Okay, it's 8-2, no problem, just one more out...
That proved hard to come by for Richard, who got to a 2-2 count on Andrew Susac before Susac ripped a double over Dexter Fowler's head in center field, clearing the bases.
Well, now it's 8-5 and pitchers who really should have had the evening off had to come in. Pedro Strop put out the Giants' eighth-inning fire on two pitches, but Hector Rondon (24th save) had to throw 18 pitches to finish it off. The game reminded me a bit of those spring-training games where a team runs out to a big lead, only to turn over the lineup and see the scrubs make it close. There aren't as many "scrubs" on 25-man rosters as in spring games, but some of the Giants' bench players made this one closer than it had to be off of guys who need to step up in the bullpen (Hunter, Richard) in order to take the pressure off late-inning relievers like Strop and Rondon.
The win was Arrieta's 16th, which leads all major-league pitchers. He dropped his ERA to 2.22, now second in the National League to Zack Greinke. It's not inconceivable that Arrieta could make a late run at the Cy Young Award, which currently appears to be Greinke's to lose. Arrieta is having the best season for a Cubs starting pitcher since Greg Maddux' Cy Young season in 1992. Maddux had a season ERA of 2.18 that year; if Arrieta goes below that, no Cubs starter has had an ERA lower than 2.18 since Dick Ellsworth posted 2.11 in 1963. Yes, we are living in historic times.
The Cubs also lead the major leagues (tied with the Blue Jays and Mariners) for home runs since the All-Star break (55) and have 40 home runs in August (with six games to go!), which leads all teams. They also lead the major leagues in walks (429). These are things we are not used to hearing.
The Cubs picked up a game on the Pirates, who lost to the Marlins, and now trail them by just two games for the first wild-card spot. They increased their lead over the Giants for the second wild card to 7½ games. They still trail the Cardinals for the division lead by 6½ games, but... hey, there are 38 games remaining. Who knows? If they could pick up just two games on St. Louis by the time they next face them September 7, they'd at least have a shot at it. The win also matched the Cubs' victory total from all of 2014, and that total of 73 equals the most wins for any Cubs team since 2010.
I didn't want this recap to go by without complimenting Castro, who has accepted his demotion to the bench without complaint and who has actually started producing since that happened. His 3-for-4 night made him 12-for-29 in his last 12 games. He's started just six of those games but overall is hitting .379/.379/.552 with two doubles, a home run and only one strikeout over that span. Credit, I think, to Joe Maddon here for helping Castro accept a new role on this team.
The Cubs will go for their seventh straight win Wednesday night with Kyle Hendricks taking the mound against Jake Peavy. If they can do it, it would be their second streak that long... this month.